Over 150 years of American history, presented as you’ve never seen it before.
The history of the United States is something so vast, so varied, that it’s difficult to see how any artist could capture it all in the space of just one exhibition. However, we think that Ben Turnbull’s American History RemiX comes pretty close to doing a perfect job.
Over the last 15 years, Turnbull has worked to put a vibrant, contemporary spin on American history, paying homage to his love of retro comics and old-school action figures. Incorporating a variety of different styles, Turnbull has created a collection that is as educational as it is wonderful to take in – something that visitors to the Saatchi gallery will be able to experience for themselves this month.
The stories told here are familiar and run across over a century of American history, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, to the slaughter of over 300 Lakota people at the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, to the inauguration of former president Donald Trump back in just 2016. However, as familiar as the stories themselves may be, Turnbull has presented them in a way that feels incredibly contemporary, shedding brand new light on the tales of the history books.
Whilst the collection looks to educate, it also looks to question.
“It’s my business to expose myths, to not accept what’s force-fed to us by the mainstream and to shatter the idealised portrayal of the American dream,” Turnbull said, “From referencing the ‘Wizard of Oz’ connection to the Native American massacres in ‘Manifest Decimation’ to the link between the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Timothy McVeigh’s t-shirt slogan in my most current piece, I’m repurposing kids sanitised PC comics and toys to create my hardcore version.”
“There’s an extra layer of irony that you can add when the work dictates what medium I choose to use.”
Turnbull’s trademark art style has been described previously as ‘Angry Pop’ and it’s easy to see why. There’s something imposing about the collection – much of the work here forces the viewer to question their own interpretations of such historical tales and to form an adapted viewpoint based on their feelings towards the piece.
By comparing figures of history to figures represented within more modern work – for example, by presenting Donald Trump as something of a comic book villain for the peace ‘MADe In America’ – he questions not only our political landscape, but the way in which we understand it.
“I’ve worked to deliver both sides of the narrative, that is the insider and outsider’s perspective,” Turnbull said.
“It’s vital we consider both sides of the coin when weighing up global histories.”
While he demonstrates such a rich understanding of American history, Turnbull himself was born, raised and resides in London. However, he has shown great interest in the culture and history of the United States since his early youth.
He has gone on to place Americana at the core of his work as an artist, having built his career on producing detailed and thought-provoking work reflecting America’s ever-changing political and social landscape.
American History RemiX is the latest in an eye-opening series of exhibitions commenting on America’s past, present and future from an incredibly talented artist – and taking into account just how ever-changing America is, we’re sure that it will not be the last.
American History RemiX opens at the Saatchi Gallery on June 17th, with a private view scheduled to take place on June 23rd. More information can be found here.